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Loops, transitions, identity

Following a process to recalibrate my self-identity after leaving social media, I’m going back to the roots and leave WordPress for Jekyll, joining the IndieWeb.

Simone Silvestroni's avatar

Milan is the city where I spent 15 years before emigrating to the UK. It’s where I kickstarted my work life, met great people and became an adult. I find it slightly funny how, over the last couple of years, I’ve been studying to — hopefully — go back to an audio video game career, ending up moving back to where it all started.

I’m fairly used to loops in life. Being a digital polymath, I spent my life working in three distinct industries: publishing, web design, audio. Recently, I wished I could be all those things, openly, instead of being forced to present myself as one. This brings me to what I’ve been doing over the past couple of months.

Back to the roots

Following a process to recalibrate my self-identity after leaving social media, I came to know a whole lot of the web that I didn’t suspect still existed. People who happily maintain a blog, who keep up to date with other websites through newsletters and RSS like I do. Authors researching the best way to get out of the silo-like online mentality that dominated the last two decades.

Instead of going on complaining about how the web has been hijacked by advertising and surveillance capitalism, I decided to do something. I’ve decided to completely refactor our online presence, together with Silvia.

A new old model

During the 2000s, we’d run our web shop, later absorbed by a larger company. We were happy to focus on design and turning those processes into full-fledged developed websites. Our tools were: semantic HTML, CSS and WCAG. Accessibility and usability were proper assets in our skillset. In fact, we took pride about getting full compliance qualifications for all of our deliveries.

Despite the occasional hero header, content was still king, ruling over aesthetics. Web standards were at the forefront, before something else took the whole industry towards a different path. Now it’s the perfect time to go back.

Complete control

After removing social media from the equation, the next move is to get out of WordPress. It’s been a platform of choice for a long time, yet something that never appeased me. Its whole ecosystem, the plug-ins, the swelling database, the reliance on a hosting service. The annoying process of setting up my machine in order to run it locally… Ugh.

Lack of control is the key: the code isn’t mine — even when I develop my own themes or plug-ins from scratch: it’s not enough.

Static web generators

I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of redesigning my website with a static site generator and now it’s the time.

Last month I’ve developed and delivered a super-nice landing page. My first paid job as a web designer in years, and all I had to use was Jekyll and GitHub. No clunky local environment, no hosting fees. A smooth sailing from beginning to end, 100% benchmark on Pagespeed on both desktop and mobile, with less than 400 milliseconds loading time.

Despite still having a full year of hosting with SiteGround before a hefty renewal is due, the die is cast.

HTML, Markdown, CSS, Git

This is what I’m using. It feels essential, stripped down to the core, super fast and efficient. GitHub is the control version, which will serve as a deployment platform towards Netlify, which will be our (free) hosting.

With control of the codebase, the design and the information architecture, every single detail is in my hands. Every benchmark will be testing the ability to run a fast and sustainable website.

No useless obligatory Unsplash-driven featured images, pretending to attract people’s attention while slowing down every page. Full focus on the content: typography, rhythm, speed, access to the information, clear navigation.

The ease of updating isn’t secondary. Being the local site a perfect mirror of production, adding a new post is just a matter of creating a new markdown file. Write, save, push to the Git repository and that’s it. I can even edit stuff online in the browser, directly on GitHub. No SQL backups needed.

No surveillance, no comments

I won’t be showing annoying cookie messages, because the website won’t spy on anyone. No Google Analytics, no Tag Manager, no scripts at all. No comment system either. Instead of public comments, a simple button to “reply with email” looks perfect to me. Start a conversation, remember it?

I love when blogs present this kind of interaction, and the idea of being back to the feeling of “it’s me and the author” is electrifying.

There were no ads, no one could slow down your feed with third party scripts, it had a good baseline of typographic standards and, most of all, it was quiet. There were no comments, no likes or retweets. Just the writer’s thoughts and you.Robin Rendle

Decentralise and own my data

Once it’s online, I’ll be joining the IndieWeb and implement webmentions, a tech I ignored for too long.

A community of individual personal websites, connected by simple standards, based on the principles of owning your domain, using it as your primary identity, to publish on your own site, and own your data.Indieweb

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